Thursday, September 30, 2004

Bono at Brighton

Bono addressed the Labour Party Conference at Brighton yesterday. His speech--not surprisingly to those who know something of his work beyond the stage and recording studio--pertained to Africa. Here are a few excerpts:

My name is Bono and I'm a rock star. . . . Excuse me if I appear a little nervous. I'm not used to appearing before crowds of less than 80,000. I heard the word party -- obviously got the wrong idea.

. . .

[Describing how he and his wife Ali became interested in Africa during a month-long stay at an orphanage in Ethiopia in the 1980s:] On our last day at the orphanage a man handed me his baby and said: take him with you. He knew in Ireland his son would live; in Ethiopia his son would die.

I turned him down.

In that moment I started this journey. In that moment I became the worst thing of all: a rock star with a cause.

. . .

Let's be clear about what this problem is and what this problem isn't. Firstly, this is not about charity, it's about justice.

Let me repeat that: This is not about charity, this is about justice. And that's too bad. Because you're good at charity. The British, like the Irish, are good at it. Even the poorest neighbourhoods give more than they can afford. We like to give and we give a lot.

But justice is a tougher standard.

. . .

That's the first tough truth.

The second is that to fight AIDS, and its root cause, the extreme poverty in which it thrives, it's not just development policy. It's a security strategy.

. . .

Listen, I know what this looks like, rock star standing up here, shouting imperatives others have to fulfill. But that's what we do, rock stars. Rock stars get to wave flags, shout at the barricades, and escape to the South of France. We're unaccountable. We behave accordingly.

But not you. You can't. You can't do that. See, we're actually counting on you. Politicians have to make the fight, do the work, and get judged by the results.

. . .

I don't care if you are Old Labour or New Labour. What is your party about if it's not about this--if it's not about equality, about justice, the right to make a living, the right to go on living?

"Justice is a tougher standard." Even from a rock star, it's refreshing to hear a call to a higher standard.

The Human Rights of Women

In his New York Times column yesterday, Nicholas Kristof wrote, "I firmly believe that the central moral challenge of this century, equivalent to the struggles against slavery in the 19th century or against totalitarianism in the 20th, will be to address sex inequality in the third world." Kristof's column tells the story of Mukhtaran Bibi, a Pakistani woman sentenced--for a "crime" not her own--by a village tribal council to be gang-raped. The sentence was carried out but Ms. Mukhtaran defied expectations by refusing to commit suicide after the rape.

Women around the world continue to be subjected to the same human rights abuses that men are subjected to while also suffering from countless gender-specific human rights abuses. Gertrude Mongella of Tanzania, the Secretary-General of the UN Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing 1995), said, "Women have always struggled with their men-folk for the abolition of slavery, the liberation of countries from colonialism, the dismantling of apartheid and the attainment of peace. It is now the turn of men to join women in their struggle for equality."

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Extraordinary Rendition

H.R. 10, the "9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act of 2004," contains language that would authorize what is euphemistically called "extraordinary rendition." ("Extraordinary rendition"--a recently coined term not to be found in Black's Law Dictionary--refers to the practice of sending prisoners--suspected terrorists, in the current context--for questioning to countries such as Pakistan that can and do practice torture with impunity.)

Sec. 3032 of the proposed act, on the subject of "removal," requires the Secretary of Homeland Security "to revise the regulations prescribed by the Secretary to implement the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment" in such a way that suspected terrorists are excluded from legal protections now existing in law. Furthermore, the Secretary's revision of the regulations "shall also ensure that the burden of proof is on the applicant for withholding or deferral of removal under the Convention to establish by clear and convincing evidence that he or she would be tortured if removed to the proposed country of removal." In other words, suspects the United States seeks to deport to be questioned by other countries would have to prove that their removal would result in their being tortured. The section concludes with the proviso that "no court shall have jurisdiction to review the regulations adopted to implement this section." (Go here--and type in "H.R. 10"--to find the text of the bill.)

So there's no misunderstanding, this bill, if enacted in its present form, would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to issue regulations permitting suspected terrorists to be sent to other countries for torture. Such regulations would not be subject to judicial review, nor would they be constrained by U.S. obligations under the Convention Against Torture. Extraordinary rendition--outsourcing torture--would become the law of the land.

For additional information, see this press release from Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the sponsor of an amendment to remove the torture outsourcing provision from H.R. 10. If you need more to think about, read this column by Isabel Hilton in The Guardian (July 28, 2004) and ponder the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen caught up in the post-9/11 terrorist sweep.

Finally, consider calling or writing your Congressman to urge him or her to support Rep. Markey's efforts to prohibit the removal of suspects to countries that practice torture.

(Via Obsidian Wings through Kevin Drum's Political Animal.)

Just Because People Believe It . . .

. . . that doesn't make it so.

In 1821, Thomas Jefferson told the Board of Visitors at the University of Virginia, "No nation is permitted to live in ignorance with impunity." A new poll out today by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland suggests that we may be headed for a test of Mr. Jefferson's dictum. This, from the press release announcing the poll results, tells why:

As the nation prepares to watch the presidential candidates debate foreign policy issues, a new PIPA-Knowledge Networks poll finds that Americans who plan to vote for President Bush have many incorrect assumptions about his foreign policy positions. Kerry supporters, on the other hand, are largely accurate in their assessments. The uncommitted also tend to misperceive Bush’s positions, though to a smaller extent than Bush supporters, and to perceive Kerry’s positions correctly. Steven Kull, director of PIPA, comments: “What is striking is that even after nearly four years President Bush’s foreign policy positions are so widely misread, while Senator Kerry, who is relatively new to the public and reputed to be unclear about his positions, is read correctly.”

Majorities of Bush supporters incorrectly assumed that Bush favors including labor and environmental standards in trade agreements (84%), and the US being part of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (69%), the International Criminal Court (66%), the treaty banning land mines (72%), and the Kyoto Treaty on global warming (51%). They were divided between those who knew that Bush favors building a new missile defense system now (44%) and those who incorrectly believe he wishes to do more research until its capabilities are proven (41%). However, majorities were correct that Bush favors increased defense spending (57%) and wants the US, not the UN, to take the stronger role in developing Iraq’s new government (70%).

This, I think, raises an interesting question about the debate tomorrow night. If Kerry accurately characterizes Bush's foreign policy positions in the debate, will a majority of the American people simply assume he's lying? Perhaps a more interesting question is this: Will post-debate spinmeisters do more to clarify or more to obscure Bush's actual positions on foreign policy positions?

It's a more interesting question, but not, I think, one that's particularly difficult to answer.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

A Thought (On Power)

"We thought, because we had power, we had wisdom."
Stephen Vincent Benét, Litany for Dictatorships, 1935

(One of many great epigrams found in Rourke and Boyer's International Politics on the World Stage.)

Black Gold

The price of a barrel of oil topped $50 today for the first time ever on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil for November delivery closed at $49.90 a barrel, a record-high closing price. In response, Saudi Arabia announced plans to increase production, but production throughout the OPEC states is already nearing capacity. There is, in other words, little spare capacity to bring into production.

Given this news, a few facts about oil--and oil consumption--may be useful.

  • The United States imports approximately 12 million barrels of oil per day of which roughly 2.5 million barrels come from the Persian Gulf. Among OECD countries, Japan is second in oil imports with approximately 5.5 million barrels imported per day. Almost four-fifths of Japan's oil imports come from the Persian Gulf.
  • U.S. crude oil production is currently just over five million barrels per day.
  • The three top-selling vehicles in the United States (selling a combined 979,485 units in the first half of 2004) are pickup trucks. The best-seller for twenty-two years in a row--the Ford F-150--gets 17 MPG city and 20 MPG highway in its most fuel-efficient configuration. The Chevrolet Silverado and Dodge Ram pickups that follow right behind in the rankings get virtually the same gasoline mileage.

Our penchant for pickups (along with SUVs and other gas-guzzlers) continues to make a number of countries very wealthy. (See which ones here.)

Monday, September 27, 2004

Proliferation Update

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Su Hon said today that his country has turned the uranium from 8,000 spent fuel rods into weapons and that the danger of war on the peninsula is "snowballing." The number of fuel rods reprocessed suggests that North Korea may have as many as eight nuclear weapons.

For background on the DPRK's nuclear program, see the directory of Internet resources available here.

Women in Politics

Here are a few random notes on women's participation in politics worldwide.

  • At present, women occupy 15.4 percent of the world's parliamentary seats, up from 12.7 percent five years ago.
  • In the United States, there are 62 women in the House of Representatives (14.3 percent) and 13 in the Senate.
  • Rwanda, with 39 women in its 80-seat legislature (48.8 percent), has the world's highest proportion of women in a national parliament.
  • Only once in history has one woman succeeded another as president: In 1997, Mary McAleese succeeded Mary Robinson as president of Ireland.
  • Two women have served consecutively as prime minister in New Zealand: Jenny Shipley and Helen Elizabeth Clark.

For data on women in parliamentary bodies, see the web site of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Information concerning female leaders is available at Zarate's Political Collections.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

The Evolution of al Qaeda

This article in today's Los Angeles Times says what a number of analysts have been telling us for some time, but it is well worth reading nonetheless--particularly for those who haven't read what the terrorism experts have been saying. Here's the lede:

Authorities have made little progress worldwide in defeating Islamic extremists affiliated with Al Qaeda despite thwarting attacks and arresting high-profile figures, according to interviews with intelligence and law enforcement officials and outside experts.

The story goes on to state, "Since the loss of its base in Afghanistan and many of those leaders [who previously directed operations], the organization has dispersed its operatives and reemerged as a lethal ideological movement."

Richard A. Clarke, in Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror (p. 263), reports that, following 9/11, he urged those who asked him what to read on the terrorist threat to watch a movie instead. The movie he recommended, Gillo Pontecorvo's classic The Battle of Algiers, recounts the French failure to understand--and challenge--the ideological foundations of the Algerian terrorists. Clarke writes (p. 262), "The second agenda item post-September 11 [after improving homeland security] should have been the creation of a counterweight ideology to the al Qaeda, fundamentalist, radical version of Islam because much of the threat we face is ideological, a perversion of a religion."

The United States is still not countering the Islamist ideology effectively. The ideological nature of the threat is something we must address, particularly as it becomes more and more apparent that al Qaeda is undergoing a transformation from terrorist organization to terrorist inspiration.

Ebola: An Update

Ebola haemorrhagic fever (EHF) is, with good reason, one of the most feared viruses on earth. It kills 50-90 percent of its human victims in a particularly gruesome fashion and it is highly contagious.

In Laurie Garrett's The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance, Dr. Ngoi Mushola's description of one of the first reported cases of the Ebola virus--in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in September 1976--is reprinted:

Findings. The affliction is characterized by a high temperature around 39 C; frequent vomiting of black, digested blood, but of red blood in a few cases; diarrheal emissions initially sprinkled with blood, with only red blood near death; epistaxis [nosebleeds] now and then; retrosternal and abdominal pain and a state of stupor; prostration with heaviness in the joints; rapid evolution toward death after a period of about three days, from a state of general health.

A recent outbreak of Ebola in southern Sudan offers some hope that health officials are learning to isolate the disease effectively, even though no cure is available.

On July 26, 2004, the last of seven Ebola-related deaths in Yambio, Sudan occurred. With no other known infections extant in the area, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak over on August 7. In all, seventeen cases were identified during the outbreak, one of the smallest outbreaks on record. Since the discovery of the Ebola virus, there have been 1,200 deaths from a total of approximately 1,850 cases of the disease.

Rapid response and effective quarantine measures appear to have limited the spread of Ebola in southern Sudan. This photo shows the quarantine area--complete with fences--constructed for patients during the Yambio outbreak.

Ebola is noteworthy for its virulence. HIV/AIDS, of course, continues to be a more significant threat in sub-Saharan Africa and worldwide. I plan to comment on the HIV/AIDS pandemic in a future post.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

The Blogging Phenomenon

A year ago, I had no idea what a blog was. At the moment, I can't recall exactly when I first read one, although I'm reasonably certain that a Google search for some bit of political information was what first brought me into contact with either Kevin Drum's Calpundit (Drum now blogs on Washington Monthly's web site) or Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo. While in Italy last year, I began to add these and other web logs--including Legal Fiction and Warblogging--to my daily diet of news and commentary. (In Italy, the current events reading was always anchored by the print editions of the International Herald Tribune and La Repubblica, along with the online version of the New York Times. Now it's the online versions of the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, although I'm trying to throw some foreign papers into the mix on a regular basis.)

A year ago, the bloggers I read were writing a lot about the mainstream media. They still are. Now mainstream journalists are beginning to write a lot about bloggers. Tomorrow's New York Times Magazine includes a feature story on political blogging.

According to the story, two million Americans have a blog. (My own research indicates that most are not as good as mine. On the other hand, that same research suggests that my blog has fewer photos of cats doing stupid things than the average blog.) It also says that James Rubin, John Kerry's right-hand man on foreign policy, claims to read blogs daily. Rubin didn't say which ones, so I don't guess we can tell whether he's very well informed or just someone who likes to see photos of cats doing stupid things.

It's probably premature to say that blogging has changed journalism--or politics--but it might not be premature by much. It's probably also premature to say that blogging has changed my classes--or even my approach to teaching--but that, too, might not be premature by much. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the blogging phenomenon.

Finally, for more information on the effect of the Internet on many different aspects of life, including politics, take a look at the studies done by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. The polls conducted by the Project tell us most of what we know today about who's doing what online.

Fin de Semana Farrago of Frivolity

It's the weekend and so it's time to mention some of the more amusing things I've seen (and heard) on the web in recent months. Here's the list--numbered but in no particular order:

  1. The Borowitz Report is where I get my news when I just can't take it straight.
  2. It's fun to write a speech for President Bush, especially when you can listen to him deliver it when you're done. (I tried, though, and there's no way to get him to mention Osama.)
  3. This got a lot of publicity a month or so ago, but it's still fun to watch occasionally. It's Kerry and Bush singing "This Land Is Your Land" in the JibJab animation. (While you're there, take a look at the Founding Fathers rap.)
  4. Who could have imagined that listening to Lyndon Johnson ordering pants over the phone could be so entertaining? (Be sure to click "Listen.")

Any suggestions for future weekends?

Friday, September 24, 2004

The Status of CEDAW

On September 1, the Federated States of Micronesia acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination of Women (CEDAW), a treaty drafted in 1979 to protect the human rights of women. The number of states that have ratified or acceded to CEDAW is now 178. The United States signed CEDAW in 1980 but has never ratified it.

Allawi's Stump Speeches

Ayad Allawi, to whom the United States Coalition Provisional Authority transferred power in Iraq on June 28, is currently in the U.S. making numerous speeches. Here's the way the President sees Allawi's visit:

"This is an important visit because the prime minister will be able to explain clearly to the American people that not only is progress being made, that we will succeed," Mr. Bush said.

"The American people have seen horrible scenes on our TV screens," he added, "and the prime minister will be able to say to them that in spite of the sacrifices being made, in spite of the fact that Iraqis are dying and U.S. troops are dying as well, that there is a will amongst the Iraqi people to succeed."

Has there ever before been a foreign leader--whether democratically elected or appointed as Allawi was--who came to the U.S. in the post-Labor Day "campaign season" to support the incumbent president's re-election campaign?

Last month in the U.K., Prime Minister Tony Blair bowed to pressure from members of the Labour Party and decided not to invite Allawi to speak at Labour's Annual Conference in Brighton next week. The Guardian noted that "former foreign secretary, Robin Cook, was among senior party figures privately urging Mr Blair not to raise tensions over Iraq by inviting someone widely seen as a protegé of the CIA and M16."

[UPDATE: This editorial in today's New York Times also addresses Allawi's visit to the United States.]

Thursday, September 23, 2004

A Chilly Diplomatic Reception

When President Bush addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, his tone was less conrontational than in previous visits. Nonetheless, his speech was not well received by the assembled delegates. Here's how Farah Stockman described it in the Boston Globe on Wednesday:

There was no burst of applause during Bush's speech to the General Assembly yesterday, even when he talked about the world's common struggles against poverty and disease. And the applause at the end was subdued.

In contrast, Zimbabwe's dictator, Robert Mugabe, was applauded when he told the UNGA on Wednesday that "we are now being coerced to accept and believe that a new political-cum-religious doctrine has arisen, namely that 'There is but one political god, George W. Bush, and Tony Blair is his prophet.'"

Mugabe is a thug and the line about Bush and Blair is offensive on several different levels, but the fact that it drew applause while nothing President Bush said was applauded speaks volumes about the international community's disdain for the current leadership of the United States. It's not at all clear that a "global war on terrorism" can be waged effectively in this climate.

(I apologize for the absence of links in this post. My sources were articles found on LexisNexis Academic.)

UNSC Reform

On Tuesday, the German, Brazilian, Japanese, and Indian missions to the United Nations issued a joint statement calling for reform of the U.N. Security Council. The statement reads, in part:

The Security Council must reflect the realities of the international community in the 21st century. It must be representative, legitimate and effective. It is essential that the Security Council includes, on a permanent basis, countries that have the will and the capacity to take on major responsibilities with regard to the maintenance of international peace and security. . . . The Security Council . . . must be expanded in both the permanent and non-permanent categories, including developing and developed countries as new permanent members.

The statement also announced the four countries' support of each other for permanent membership on the Security Council and called for an African state to be given a permanent seat.

On Wednesday, Swiss President Joseph Deiss called for reform of the Security Council in his speech before the U.N. General Assembly. Unlike the joint India-Japan-Germany-Brazil statement, Deiss's speech explicitly tied the need for reform to the Iraq crisis. "In hindsight," he said, "experience shows that actions taken without a mandate which has been clearly defined in a Security Council resolution are doomed to failure."

The procedural obstacles to Security Council reform remain formidable. Nonetheless, it is possible that the Iraq War will mark a turning point in the international campaign to make the United Nations more democratic. Thanks to events in the Security Council in February 2003, there is widespread sentiment that a more democratic Security Council would also be more effective.

Ideology vs. Personality

The test to which I linked yesterday might help you to determine whether your political ideology is closer to that of George W. Bush or John Kerry. Of course, it often seems that there are many Americans who could care less about ideology or the policy positions that political candidates present. To such voters, it's more important to be able to identify with a candidate on a personal level--to feel like he (or she) is someone who would be fun to watch a NASCAR race with. Others--the partisans--buy their candidates off the rack. (No, I'm not talking about those who vote based on sartorial considerations, although such voters certainly exist.) They don't need to check the size or the style as long as they know which is the Democratic rack and which is the Republican rack. Partisans, in other words, are those who need only a party label to decide. In Texas (back when there were still Democrats in Texas, that is), we called the Democratic version of the partisans "yellow dog Democrats." ("He'd vote for an old yellow dog if it were running on the Democratic ticket.") Of course, we shouldn't disparage the partisans. They're often the ones who know best where their own ideology lies and how it lines up with the two-party system in the United States.

Getting back to the personality factor, here's a test designed to assess whether your personality is consistent with your perception of the personality of Bush or Kerry.

(Thanks to my friend and--long ago--former student Karl Urban for sending the link to me from deep in the heart of Texas.)

One more thing: I did take the Political Compass Test and the results were not surprising. My views are very close to those of Marx--Groucho Marx, that is--who said, "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it and then misapplying the wrong remedies."

I have to quote one more line from Groucho. (How often am I going to find an excuse to quote him in a blog that is purportedly about international relations?) Here it is: "Those are my principles. If you don't like them I have others."

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

How to Get a Job--at the UN

The United Nations operates on a very tight budget and recruits its employees from 191 countries around the world. Consequently, the odds of landing a job in the Secretariat are slim, but speaking English (one of the official languages of the Secretariat) is an advantage. How does one go about finding--and applying for--vacant positions within the UN?

The first step is to go to the UN web site and click on "UN Employment." At present, there are 199 openings listed in 24 different occupational groups. Looking at the "Human Rights" group (8 vacancies), one would find positions at the P3 and P4 levels (requiring advanced degrees and/or significant work experience in the field of human rights), all but one of which would be in Geneva at the UN Human Rights Center.

For lower-level positions (P2) requiring an undergraduate degree only, there is a National Competitive Recruitment Examination (NCRE). This will be offered in the United States next February (but the application deadline has already passed). The NCRE is in two parts: a General Exam to test basic writing skills and lasting about one hour and a Specialized Exam to test substantive knowledge of the position being applied for and lasting about three hours and forty-five minutes. For human rights positions, the sample Specialized Exam includes these questions:

  • Describe the role and mandate of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
  • Explain the legal differences between a declaration, a covenant, and a convention adopted by the United Nations organs.
  • List the six principal (UN) international human rights treaties currently in force.
  • Recent years have brought important developments in strengthening the judicial enforcement of international human rights and humanitarian law. Name three (3) such developments since the 1990s.
  • One aspect of the Secretary-General’s Reform programme of 1997 called for integrating the human rights programme into a broad range of the organization’s activities, including in the peacekeeping, development and humanitarian areas. Discuss the objectives of this process and provide three examples of how it is being accomplished.
  • Describe the “Global Compact” and discuss its importance for human rights.
Internships are described here.

Beyond Left vs. Right

Here's an interesting test of political ideology--one that combines the familiar left-right spectrum with an authoritarian-libertarian spectrum. You're welcome to use the comment area to brag about your score if you wish.

(I haven't taken the test yet, so don't ask me about my score.)

[UPDATE: My apologies for omitting the link to the test. Thanks to mquest for pointing out my mistake.]

Islam Deported from U.S.

(You might as well skip this post if you're under 40.)

Here's an interesting item from today's New York Times:

The Department of Homeland Security ordered a United Airlines jet flying from London to Washington rerouted to Bangor, Me., on Tuesday afternoon so it could intercept a passenger, Yusuf Islam, the musician formerly known as Cat Stevens, two government officials said.

The story goes on to note that Cat (Can I still call him "Cat"?), a British citizen, is to be deported. (How about deporting Ted Nugent, too?)

Cat is not quoted in the NYT article, which is a shame because I can imagine him having some interesting things to say.

  • "And all this time I thought I was being followed by a moonshadow!"
  • "I knew I should have taken the peace train!"
  • "Oh, baby, baby, it's a wild world."
Any other ideas about what Cat might have said?

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The Crimes of War Project

The Los Angeles Times article (concerning allegations of torture by American Special Forces in Afghanistan) noted in my previous post was based in large part on reporting done by Craig Pyes for the Crimes of War Project. The article by Pyes posted on the Crimes of War Project web site includes a few details omitted in the Times article.

The Crimes of War Project deserves some comment. In 1991, Roy Gutman began reporting for Newsday from Bosnia. His dispatches over the next two years, collected in a book entitled Witness to Genocide, documented the Serbs' campaign of ethnic cleansing and earned him a Pulitzer Prize. Based on his experiences covering the war in Bosnia, Gutman decided that journalists were generally ill-equipped to report modern wars because of their inadequate understanding of the laws of war and international humanitarian law. With the assistance of other journalists, lawyers, and academic experts, Gutman established the Crimes of War Project to promote greater awareness of the law of armed conflict.

One of the first products of this effort was the publication of a book, Crimes of War: What the Public Should Know, edited by Gutman and another veteran of the Bosnian conflict, journalist David Rieff. The book (well worth purchasing but also available in its entirety online) is a collection of brief articles on topics ranging from "Collateral Damage" to "Free Fire Zones" and "Occupation of Territory." Each article is written in non-technical language by an academic expert or an experienced journalist. Taken together, Crimes of War offers an excellent education on a subject that is, sadly, all too relevant today.

(Thanks to Anne Harringer for making me aware of the Crimes of War Project when it was still in its infancy.)

Torture in Afghanistan

Just a little over a week ago, I wrote about new allegations of torture by Americans in Mosul, Iraq. Today the Los Angeles Times has a long story about allegations of torture--and murder by torture--at the hands of U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan. Here is a brief excerpt from the Times article:

Alleged American mistreatment of the detainees included repeated beatings, immersion in cold water, electric shocks, being hung upside down and toenails being torn off, according to Afghan investigators and an internal memorandum prepared by a United Nations delegation that interviewed the surviving soldiers.

The article also offers details concerning the death of 18-year-old Jamal Naseer in American custody. When Naseer's body was turned over to Afghan authorities, it was covered with bruises consistent with prolonged beatings.

I am at a loss to describe my feelings on hearing yet another story of Americans as torturers. Knowing that the United States is engaged in a battle for the hearts and minds of Muslims, I am frightened by what these stories tell me about how that battle is going. Knowing that war--and postwar occupation--is a nasty business and that we owe a debt of gratitude to those serving in the armed forces, I am nonetheless disgusted by the actions of those who, wearing the flag of my country on their uniforms, would torture another human being. And, knowing that the United States has, at least in its better moments, stood for human rights and the rule of law, I am deeply saddened by what our nation has become in the eyes of the world.

It would be easy to attribute acts of torture in Abu Ghraib, in Mosul, and in Gardez, Afghanistan to the mistakes--or the crimes--of a few individuals. It would be wrong, however, to take the easy way out. Why? First, because there is evidence that allegations of torture have been covered up. (See the Times article for details.) Second, because torture has been rationalized and defined away by the United States Government since shortly after 9/11. Consider this conclusion from a legal memorandum prepared by the Department of Justice and dated August 1, 2002:

We conclude that for an act to constitute torture as defined in Section 2340 [the U.S. Torture Victims Protection Act], it must inflict pain that is difficult to endure. Physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death. For purely mental pain or suffering to amount to torture under Section 2340, it must result in significant psychological harm of significant duration, e.g., lasting for months or even years.

The Department of Justice concluded, in other words, that it is very difficult to get to the point at which inflicting pain on another human being qualifies as "torture" under the law. Sadly, attorneys for the Department of Defense reached similar conclusions. There is, I believe, a connection between the legal opinions that have been circulated at the highest levels of the government and the actions of Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan. If not, then the United States has an even more serious problem that falls under the heading of command authority.

(I posted links to this and other memoranda--along with links to a Human Rights Watch report and photos from Abu Ghraib--in an earlier post on torture.)

Monday, September 20, 2004

The Slow Train to Arusha

The Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko said, "Justice is like a train that is nearly always late." That line seems appropriate in contemplating the trial that began in Tanzania today.

On April 13, 1994, one week after the genocide began, 2,000 Tutsis seeking refuge from roving bands of Hutus were herded into the Roman Catholic church in Nyange, Rwanda. In many places in Rwanda during the genocide, churches offered sanctuary--at least temporarily--to people desperately trying to escape the interahamwe. Priests struggled valiantly to protect parishioners in Kigali's cathedral, Sainte Famille. Elsewhere--the cathedral in Kibeho, for example--churches were the scenes of massacres. At times, even priests and nuns are alleged to have participated in the killing.

Nyange's priest, Father Athanase Seromba, is now on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania. He stands accused of the crime of genocide, along with conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity. Prosecutors allege that Father Seromba arranged to have bulldozers demolish his own church in order to bury those who had sought refuge inside. Witnesses say that he personally shot many of those who attempted to escape the church.

For years following Rwanda's genocide, Father Seromba lived near Florence, Italy where he served as a parish priest under an assumed name. In 2001, the tribunal sought his extradition from Italy, but not until February 2002, after Carla del Ponte, then the chief prosecutor in Arusha, had accused the Berlusconi government of failing to honor its international obligations did Italy and the Vatican move to turn over Father Seromba.

Another genocide trial has begun. The train has left the station.

UNGA--59th Session

The 59th Session of the United Nations General Assembly begins its period of general debate tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. (EDT). Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who recently described the U.S. intervention in Iraq as "illegal," will open the debate with an address focused on the importance of the rule of law in international affairs. President Bush will be among the 62 heads of state and 21 heads of government (along with various other dignitaries) who are expected to address the General Assembly. The President's remarks will focus on U.S. initiatives designed to alleviate poverty and address the AIDS crisis in Africa, themes addressed in his weekly radio address on Saturday.

Is the Vietnam War Over?

Andy Borowitz reports today that the American presidential campaign is causing some confusion in Southeast Asia:

Citing the persistent bickering over Vietnam in the current U.S. presidential ampaign, the president of Vietnam today asked the United States government for “official confirmation” that the Vietnam War is over.

“We were pretty sure that the war was over,” said President Tran Duc Luong, “but we thought it wouldn’t hurt to check.”

Sunday, September 19, 2004

An Iraqi Woman in Abu Ghraib

Huda Alazawi, a 39-year-old Iraqi woman held by the United States in Abu Ghraib for 157 days, tells her story in The Guardian. She maintains that she was falsely imprisoned after refusing to give in to blackmail efforts by an Iraqi informer. In Abu Ghraib, Alazawi claims ot have witnessed the murder of one of her brothers and the sexual humiliation of another. Describing the situation in the prison before the torture scandal broke, Alazawi said,

The guards used wild dogs. I saw one of the guards allow his dog to bite a 14-year-old boy on the leg. The boy's name was Adil. Other guards frequently beat the men. I could see the blood running from their noses. They would also take them for compulsory cold showers even though it was January and February. From the very beginning, it was mental and psychological war.

Whether Alazawi's story is true or not, two things are certain: first, what we do know from the Army's investigation makes stories like this one more credible and, second, many Muslims will believe the story because it conforms to what they have been hearing about the United States from their clerics and, in some cases, their governments.

It is almost impossible to overstate the damage done to America's image in the Muslim world by the Abu Ghraib scandal. If it seems that the story has died down, it's only because the American press--focused as it is on the presidential election--is no longer covering it with the same level of interest the press elsewhere in the world continues to show.

Does the Vietnam War Matter?

Dulce bellum inexpertis.*


(*War is sweet to those who have not experienced it.)

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Feminism and Abu Ghraib

Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America and co-editor of Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy, published an interesting piece in the Los Angeles Times last May on Abu Ghraib and what it meant for her understanding of feminism. The essay, "What Abu Ghraib Taught Me," can be read here on the Women's Human Rights Net web site.

Ehrenreich mentions the Stanley Milgram experiment in acknowledging that we should have known that ordinary people can do horrendous things. But she admits that feminists have typically thought that women wouldn't do the things that men would do. "A certain kind of feminism," Ehrenreich writes, "or perhaps I should say a certain kind of feminist naiveté, died in Abu Ghraib." For Ehrenreich and many other feminists, facile assumptions about the moral superiority of women were displaced by the images of Lynndie England and Sabrina Harman abusing Iraqi prisoners.

What we have learned from Abu Ghraib, once and for all, is that a uterus is not a substitute for a conscience. This doesn't mean gender equality isn't worth fighting for for its own sake. It is. If we believe in democracy, then we believe in a woman's right to do and achieve whatever men can do and achieve, even the bad things. It's just that gender equality cannot, all alone, bring about a just and peaceful world.

Democratization Begins at Home

According to the annual survey conducted by Freedom House, 117 of the world's 192 states qualify as electoral democracies. Here, according to Freedom House, are the criteria for designating a state an electoral democracy:

Among the basic criteria for designating a country as an electoral democracy are that voters can choose their authoritative leaders freely from among competing groups and individuals not designated by the government; voters have access to information about candidates and their platforms; voters can vote without undue pressure from the authorities; and candidates can campaign free from intimidation.

Only 88 of the 117 states meeting the Freedom House criteria for electoral democracy are also classified as "free." The others fail to protect certain fundamental rights and freedoms for their citizens. They must, consequently, be considered illiberal democracies, to use Fareed Zakaria's term (in The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad).

On September 13, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced major changes in Russia's political system, the first in over a decade, that will have the effect of consolidating power in the presidency and dramatically weakening existing checks and balances in Russia's government. One day after the White House initially avoided commenting on Putin's proposals, calling them an internal matter, Secretary of State Powell offered a slightly stronger critique, calling the plan "a pulling back on some of the democratic reforms" that had previously occurred in Russia.

Now the latest issue of The Economist takes aim at democracy in America. An article entitled "Pyongyang on the Potomac" reveals to the world what many American political scientists have long recognized: there's a serious shortage of electoral democracy in the United States if one looks closely at elections to the House of Representatives. In fact, The Economist calls House elections "a travesty of democracy." Here's how The Economist describes the situation:

The sheer uncompetitiveness of most House races takes one's breath away. In 2002, four out of five of them were won by more than 20 points. The average margin was a stunning two to one, meaning some races had even bigger margins. Last time, 200 races had margins of 40 points or more and 80 were uncontested. So far this year, the uncontested figure is 68. In 2002, just four incumbents lost to challengers at the polls (another four lost in primaries). North Korea might be proud of the incumbent re-election rate: 99%. More than nine in ten Americans live in districts that are, in practice, one-party monopolies.

To my knowledge, not too many American political scientists have compared the United States to North Korea. But perhaps that's what it will take to get Americans to pay attention to the problem. The Economist is not exactly known as a radical rag; its criticism of uncompetitive House districts should not be casually dismissed.

(Legal Fiction has an excellent analysis of the impact of gerrymandering on the House of Representatives. For data of the sort cited by The Economist, see the amicus curiae brief by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein--a couple of political scientists--in Vieth v. Jubelirer.)

A good start toward the restoration of democracy at home would be the initiation of public financing of congressional campaigns and an end to the drawing of congressional districts by partisan legislatures. And, while we're at it, perhaps we could dispense with the Electoral College and eliminate the disenfranchisement of felons who have paid their debt to society.

[UPDATE: Colorado's plan to divide the state's nine electoral votes if Amendment 36 passes in November is a small, but useful step toward the elimination of the Electoral College.]

Friday, September 17, 2004

Voting Rights

Should ex-felons be permitted to vote? In the United States, approximately 4,700,000 citizens will be unable to vote in the upcoming general election because they have been convicted of a felony. One might argue that it is proper to suspend the right to vote while the convicted felon serves time in prison, but what about the loss of suffrage that, in some parts of the United States, lasts for the life of the felon? Is this a violation of international human rights law?

Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states:

Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, without any of the distinctions mentioned in article 2 and without unreasonable restrictions:
(a) To take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives;
(b) To vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors;
(c) To have access, on general terms of equality, to public service in his country.

The phrase "without unreasonable restrictions" may, of course, be construed as permitting a restriction on the right of felons to vote. It is worth noting, however, that the United Nations Human Rights Committee, addressing the question of felon disenfranchisement as it relates to Article 25 of the ICCPR, has said that "if conviction for an offence is a basis for suspending the right to vote, the period of such suspension should be proportionate to the offence and the sentence."

Upon release from prison, those who have committed criminal offenses in the United Kingdom have voting rights restored automatically (as a consequence of the 1983 Representation of the People Act). In South Africa, the Constitutional Court has ruled that prison inmates may not be disenfranchised. Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Israel, Peru, and Zimbabwe (among others) also permit prisoners to vote, a right granted in the United States by Maine and Vermont only. In contrast, a minor in Florida who is charged as an adult and convicted of a felony could be disenfranchised for life without ever having served time in prison. (Only 40 percent of felony convictions in the United States are punished by imprisonment.)

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that "every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein." In 2002, Canada's Supreme Court determined that this clause protects even the right of prisoners to vote.

Felon disenfranchisement laws in a number of states are relics of the era of Jim Crow legislation. Their original purpose--to establish a barrier to voting by African Americans--is being realized today as large numbers of African Americans have been disenfranchised due to convictions for drug offenses or infractions as minor as writing a bad check. (The proliferation of three-strikes laws has dramatically increased the number of small-time criminals who qualify as felons in the United States.) In Florida and Virginia, 16 percent of African Americans have been disenfranchised.

A number of constitutional challenges to the disenfranchisement of felons in the United States have been raised. More such challenges are on the way. Some state legislatures have begun to consider reforms in laws that appear to a growing number of Americans to be unjust. Meanwhile, felon disenfranchisement as it exists in some states is almost certainly a violation of international human rights law.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

NIE vs. GWB on Iraq

The New York Times reports that a National Intelligence Estimate prepared last July contains, in the words of a government official who has read it, "a significant amount of pessimism" regarding the prospects for peace and stability in Iraq. In the worst case outlined by the NIE, Iraq would be on a path toward civil war. Even in the best case, the political and economic situation in Iraq would remain tenuous through the end of 2005.

Since late July when the NIE was delivered to President Bush, the Iraqi insurgency has increased in strength. August was the worst month ever in terms of the number of attacks against American troops in Iraq. September thus far has seen some of the worst violence in Baghdad since the end of major combat operations.

In late August, at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, President Bush was upbeat about Iraq. "We're making progress on the ground," he told reporters. At the Republican National Convention and in political stump speeches since then (including his address to the National Guard Association in Las Vegas this week), the President has said, "Our strategy is succeeding."

Retired military officers have a view closer to that of the July National Intelligence Estimate. Gen. William Odom, former director of the National Security Agency, said of the situation in Iraq, "This is far graver than Vietnam. There wasn't as much at stake strategically, though in both cases we mindlessly went ahead with the war that was not constructive for US aims. But now we're in a region far more volatile, and we're in much worse shape with our allies." Gen. Joseph Hoare, former Commandant of the Marine Corps and head of the U.S. Central Command, said, "The idea that this is going to go the way these guys planned is ludicrous. There are no good options. We're conducting a campaign as though it were being conducted in Iowa, no sense of the realities on the ground." Many additional concerns have recently been raised by professional strategists and soldiers.

Much has been made of intelligence failures in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. It seems clear now, however, that the intelligence on Iraq is simply being ignored.

Doing Business in France

This, apparently, is what it takes for American firms to do business in France these days:

(Thanks to David Dillman for passing this along. Merci beaucoup.)

Kofi Annan on the Iraq War

In an interview with the BBC World Service, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan used the term "illegal" to describe the U.S. decision to go to war in Iraq in March 2003. While Annan's sentiments expressed in the interview did not differ from the views he has previously articulated, his description of the war as "illegal" represents a departure from the more circumspect descriptions offered in the past.

Pressed to state whether he thought the U.S. invasion of Iraq was illegal, Annan said, "Yes, if you wish. I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN charter from our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal."

Meanwhile, President Bush is scheduled to address the General Assembly of the United Nations next week. The 59th Session of the General Assembly began in New York on Tuesday.

UPDATE: Paul Reynolds of the BBC has an interesting commentary on the significance of individual words in diplomacy that helps to explain why Kofi Annan's characterization of the invasion of Iraq as "illegal" has drawn a sharp reaction from Australian PM John Howard and others even though the Secretary General has made similar (although not identical) comments in the past. In the course of his commentary, Reynolds provides the relevant portion of the interview transcript:

BBC: "So you don't think there was legal authority for the war."

Mr Annan: "I have made it clear, I have stated clearly, that it was not in conformity with the UN Charter."

BBC: "It was illegal."

Mr Annan: "Yes, if you wish."

BBC: "It was illegal."

Mr Annan: "Yes, I've indicated that it was not in conformity with the UN Charter. From our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal."

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Voting and Dementia

Although it's not directly related to international politics, this story in today's Washington Post was too interesting to pass up. It raises the possibility that the presidential election of 2000 was ultimately decided by people suffering from dementia (of which Alzheimer's disease is the most common form) or their caregivers. Here's an excerpt:

As swing states with large elderly populations such as Florida gear up for another presidential election, a sleeper issue has been gaining attention on medical, legal and political radar screens: Many people with advanced dementia appear to be voting in elections -- including through absentee ballot. Although there are no national statistics, two studies in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island found that patients at dementia clinics turned out in higher numbers than the general population.

There are 4.5 million people with Alzheimer's in the United States. As the population ages, that number will increase. As it does so, questions concerning the right of persons suffering from different forms of mental illness to vote will require answers.

National Security and Transnational Threats

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "People only see what they are prepared to see." Unfortunately, it often takes a disaster to prepare us to see something other than what we've always seen in the past.

Perceptions of national security are changing--slowly. Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported that Pentagon officials were considering a major shift in strategy, one that, if adopted, would require significant changes in American force structure. The shift being contemplated is based on the view that traditional conceptions of national security have become outmoded since 9/11. (Of course, the fact that the 9/11 attacks were not thwarted might be taken as evidence that traditional conceptions of national security were outmoded before 9/11.) As the Post story puts its, "The plan's working assumption is that the United States faces almost no serious conventional threats from traditional, state-based militaries." Worrying about states is out; worrying about sub-state actors is in.

The report of the 9/11 Commission (on pages 361-62) explains the foundations of this shift in perspective:

In the post-9/11 world, threats are defined more by the fault lines within societies than by the territorial boundaries between them. From terrorism to global disease or environmental degradation, the challenges have become transnational rather than international. That is the defining quality of world politics in the twenty-first century.

National security used to be considered by studying foreign frontiers, weighing opposing groups of states, and measuring industrial might. To be dangerous, an enemy had to muster large armies. Threats emerged slowly, often visibly, as weapons were forged, armies conscripted, and units trained and moved into place. Because large states were more powerful, they also had more to lose. They could be deterred.

Now threats can emerge quickly. An organization like al Qaeda, headquartered in a country on the other side of the earth, in a region so poor that electricity or telephones were scarce, could nonetheless scheme to wield weapons of unprecedented destructive power in the largest cities of the United States.

If this shift in perspective affects America's military policy alone, that will not be enough.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Torture in Mosul

There are new allegations of torture by Americans in Iraq. Lawyers are investigating claims that Iraqi detainees in Mosul were routinely abused and tortured. One of the prisoners, Haitham Saeed al-Mallah reported being tortured alone after which he was subjected to group torture.

"I heard nothing but screaming and suffering of detained Iraqis. The usage of cold water along with beating seemed to be a standard procedure. We were then asked to perform exhausting exercises of squatting while they were playing extremely loud (and dirty) music. Whoever fell to the ground out of exhaustion would receive painful beating and cold water. We were prevented from going to the toilets despite our pleas, which made many of us soil ourselves."

Last Thursday, in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, two Army generals investigating the situation at Abu Ghraib indicated that the number of "ghost detainees"--prisoners left off of official rosters at the request of the CIA in order to hide their presence from the Red Cross--was significantly higher than previously revealed. Perhaps as many as 100 prisoners were concealed from Red Cross inspectors in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Torture and Responsibility (cont.)

In November 1969, Seymour M. Hersh wrote a series of Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper articles detailing an atrocity committed by American troops in the Vietnamese village of My Lai. (The BBC noted the fortieth anniversary of the My Lai massacre with this excellent report. On the legal aspects of the My Lai trials, see this site.) The name "My Lai" is to the Vietnam War as "Abu Ghraib" is to the Iraq War: a source of shame for Americans. Hersh has been writing about Abu Ghraib for The New Yorker and was, in fact, one of the first to expose much of the story. Now his reporting is available in a just-published book entitled Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib. (Some of Hersh's more recent reporting on Abu Ghraib can be read here.)

The Iraqi Insurgency

A story in today's New York Times indicates that the Iraqi insurgency is gaining momentum. The coordinated attacks that occurred in Baghdad yesterday make it clear that, at this point, not even the capital has been fully secured by the interim government or the occupation forces:
In a series of tightly sequenced attacks, at least 25 Iraqis were killed by suicide car bombings and a barrage of missile and mortar fire in several neighborhoods across Baghdad on Sunday.

The attacks were the most widespread in months, seeming to demonstrate the growing power of the insurgency and heightening the sense of uncertainty and chaos in the capital at a time when American forces have already ceded control to insurgents in a number of cities outside of Baghdad.
The story also states that
American forces appear to be facing a guerrilla insurgency that is more sophisticated and more widespread than ever before. Last month, attacks on American forces reached their highest level since the war began, an average of 87 per day.

Two things are important to keep in mind with respect to the situation in Iraq. First, the war in Iraq was a war of choice, not of necessity. This limits the political and military options available to the United States in dealing with the insurgency. ("You broke it, you pay for it" is, understandably, the attitude of many of America's traditional allies.) Second, the American occupation of Iraq has brought greater instability to the Middle East contrary to the expectations of those who planned the war. The great problem facing policymakers now is that neither staying the course nor withdrawing from Iraq seems likely to improve the stability of the region. We must determine what policy is likely to be the lesser evil knowing full well that even the lesser evil is likely to be significantly worse than the status quo ante bellum.

It should go without saying (but clearly doesn't) that (1) we should never fight wars of choice, not necessity, and (2) if we do, those wars should not be ones that increase, rather than decrease, the level of instability and insecurity in the world.

For more on the situation in Iraq, I recommend Informed Comment, written by Juan Cole of the University of Michigan. In a recent post, Cole wrote:

Al-Qaeda has succeeded in several of its main goals. It had been trying to convince Muslims that the United States wanted to invade Muslim lands, humiliate Muslim men, and rape Muslim women. Most Muslims found this charge hard to accept. The Bush administration's Iraq invasion, along with the Abu Ghuraib prison torture scandal, was perceived by many Muslims to validate Bin Laden's wisdom and foresightedness.

After the Iraq War, Bin Laden is more popular than George W. Bush even in a significantly secular Muslim country such as Turkey. This is a bizarre finding, a weird turn of events. Turks didn't start out with such an attitude. It grew up in reaction against US policies.
What can the United States do correct the situation at this point? A high-level appointment in the next administration, whether Democratic or Republican, may await someone who has a reasonable answer.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Progress in Iraq?

The Post-Conflict Reconstruction Project of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C. has just released a report entitled Progress or Peril? Measuring Iraq's Reconstruction. The report is based on a variety of indicators including public opinion polling and interviews in Iraq. The bottom line is that the situation remains grim.

There are five inter-related areas examined in the report: security, governance and participation, economic opportunity, services, and social well-being. Neither events in the period covered by the report (June 2003 to July 2004) nor public perceptions have been moving in a positive direction.

The Executive Summary begins with these words:

Two months after the United States transferred sovereignty to an Iraqi interim government, on June 28, 2004, Iraq remains embroiled in an insurgency, with security problems overshadowing other efforts to rebuild Iraq's fragile society in the areas of governance and participation, economic opportunity, services, and social well-being. U.S. policymakers attempt to strike a balance between promising a U.S. exit strategy and promising to stay the course. Reports of gruesome violence compete with triumphalist descriptions of success in various areas.

Later, the report summarizes the security situation and Iraqi perceptions of it:

Security continues to be the predominant issue, hampering reconstruction efforts on all other fronts. Crime is rampant, and, along with fears of bombings, militias' roadblocks, banditry on the highways, and regular kidnappings, continues to impact Iraqis' ability to go about their daily lives with any semblance of normalcy. Iraqis are well disposed toward their own security forces and clearly want them to play the leading role in bringing stability to the country, but those forces are still not up to the task. Iraqis have little confidence in U.S. and other international forces.

The report is well worth reading for the objective reporting it provides on the current situation in Iraq.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

From "Problem" to "Genocide"

On June 29, 2004, en route to Khartoum, Secretary of State Colin Powell said, "We see indicators and elements that would start to move you toward a genocide conclusion but we're not there yet." We're there now. Today, in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary Powell said, "We concluded that genocide has been committed in Darfur and that the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed bear responsibility--and genocide may still be occurring."

Secretary Powell announced that the United States would introduce a new resolution regarding the situation in Sudan in the U.N. Security Council in accordance with Article VIII of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which states, "Any Contracting Party may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III." Article I obligates the parties to the agreement to "undertake to prevent and to punish" genocide.

What, exactly, is genocide? The United States Congress passed a resolution on July 22 acknowledging that genocide was occurring in the Sudan. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has not yet used the term to describe the situation in the Sudan.

Article II of the Genocide Convention states,

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

For a good, brief discussion of the debate over the meaning of genocide, see this article posted on the BBC News site.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Women at the UN--1945

Eleanor Roosevelt's role at the United Nations in the 1940s is well documented, but there were other women present from the beginning. Virginia Crocheron Gildersleeve, the dean of Barnard College from 1911 to 1947, was a member of the American delegation to the United Nations Conference on International Organization in San Francisco in 1945. In her memoir, Many a Good Crusade, she describes what it was like for women at the San Francisco Conference:
When Miss Florence Horsbrugh and Miss Ellen Wilkinson arrived in San Francisco, they were met by enthusiastic reporters demanding to know how it felt to be women delegates. The two Britons replied indignantly: "We are not 'women delegates.' We are delegates of our country and ministers of our government." This little episode illustrated a difference of opinion which arose at the San Francisco Conference between the idea of women as a separate group representing women and the conception of women in the Conference as equal comrades with men working for the same end and on the same basis. I myself knew that I had been appointed partly because I was a woman, an appointment urged by a committee representing women’s organizations. Our government thought it desirable that there should be one woman on the Delegation. But I hoped that I had been chosen also because I had had considerable experience in international affairs and in the study of the organization of peace. I was confident that I could serve my sex as well as my country best by just being a good delegate.
Unfortunately, little has been written about the role of women (other than Eleanor Roosevelt) in the United Nations. There are interesting stories yet to be told about Virginia Gildersleeve, Bertha Lutz (of Brazil), and Minerva Bernardino (of the Dominican Republic), among others.

Casualties of War (cont.)

Monica Davey's article in tomorrow's New York Times--"For 1,000 Troops, There Is No Going Home"--does an excellent job of giving meaning to the number currently dominating the news from Iraq. There are statistics in the article--the average age of the American casualties is 26; more women (24) have died in Iraq than in any American war since World War II--but there are also many personal stories. It's the kind of article that both critics and defenders of the war in Iraq need to read in order to resist the temptation to think in overly abstract terms about arguments for either changing or staying the course.

Casualties of War

We know the number "1,000" is not, in and of itself, significant; that behind the numbers are human beings with families and friends who grieve their passing; that Americans are not the only ones dying in Iraq; and that there are more deaths to come. And yet the occasion of the 1,000th American military death in Iraq offers an opportunity to pause and reflect. That is something that we, as citizens, ought to do far more often than we do. After all, "we the people" sent the 1,003 American soldiers who have died thus far in the war in Iraq to do our bidding. They were over there because we asked them to go to war.

I opposed the decision to go to war in Iraq in 2003, and yet I am a citizen in a country that presents itself to the world as--and believes itself to be--based on popular sovereignty. "We the people" rule. The government of the United States is based on the consent of the governed. We elected the members of Congress who voted to authorize the President to go to war in Iraq and we elected--or at least acquiesced in the selection of--the commander-in-chief who determined that going to war in Iraq was necessary. Perhaps there are differences in the degree of our complicity in the decision for war, but it would be wrong for those of us who opposed the war from the beginning (or who came to oppose the war when it became apparent that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq) to try to wash our hands of the whole affair. It remains our country that is at war in Iraq and that, it seems to me, makes us all responsible in some measure for the war. Our democracy is not perfect by any means, but it does afford us frequent opportunities to change the direction our elected representatives have chosen.

In addition to thinking about the responsibility that citizens in a democracy bear for their country's actions, we ought to use this milestone to remind ourselves that real people are dying daily in Iraq. It is difficult to find the names of the Iraqis who are dying, but the names of the Americans are available. They include Ryan A. Martin, 22, of Mount Vernon, Ohio--the youngest of three sons in his family; Sheldon R. Hawk Eagle, 21, of Grand Forks, North Dakota--a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and a descendant of Crazy Horse; Manuel A. Ceniceros, 23, of Santa Ana, California; Jeremy DiGiovanni, 21, of Pricedale, Mississippi; Analaura Esparza Gutierrez, 21, of Houston, Texas--engaged to be married next year; and Jason G. Wright, 19, of Luzerne, Michigan, who leaves behind three younger brothers. Each one of these young men and women--and 997 others--left loved ones behind. Each one had dreams that will never be fulfilled.

(Brief stories about many of the American soldiers who have died in Iraq have been told by CBS News. Go to this site and click on "Fallen Heroes.")

Not since the Vietnam War have so many Americans died in combat. Their deaths must never go unnoticed, notwithstanding the Pentagon policy of forbidding the media from showing us flag-draped coffins.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Terrorism Tutorials

Whether the topic is Chechen rebels, Al Qaeda, the connections between the two groups, or completely unrelated terrorist organizations, the Council on Foreign Relations has put together a very informative web site called Terrorism: Questions and Answers. I highly recommend it for information about terrorist groups, failed states, weapons of mass destruction, and homeland security.

The Terrorism Research Institute has both the "terrorism dot com" and the "terrorism dot org" addresses on the web and is well worth visiting, although much of the information is proprietary and requires a subscription.

If you have recommendations for other sites on terrorism, please leave a comment.


Pandaemonium–-the place of all demons-–is the name John Milton gave to the capital of Hell in Paradise Lost. It is also the title of a 1993 book by the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan warning of the dangers of ethnic conflict in the world. Last week, Middle School No. 1 in Beslan experienced pandaemonium. All hell broke loose in the name of ethnic conflict.

It is difficult to respond to such mind-numbing violence or to comprehend the extent of the terror campaign being waged against Russia by Chechen separatists. Consider the events of the past two weeks alone: On August 24, two airliners were destroyed within minutes of each other by bombs believed to have been carried aboard by "black widows," Chechen women whose husbands died fighting against the Russians. Eighty-nine people on the two planes were killed. One week later, a female suicide bomber killed ten people outside a Moscow subway station. Then came the siege in Beslan.

Chechen militants seized 1,100 children and teachers and crowded them into the school’s gymnasium. A number of hostages were shot and thrown out of windows almost immediately, presumably to establish the militants’ resolve. Explosives were strung over the heads of the hostages from a wire linking the basketball goals at opposite ends of the court. Some of the hostage-takers were equipped with explosive belts.

For 52 hours, as the hostages became increasingly desperate from the lack of water and fresh air in the overcrowded gym, there was a standoff between the militants and Russian security forces. Then, when the sound of explosions was heard, the security forces moved in and attempted to rescue hostages even as the militants were trying to kill as many as possible. In the end, over 350 people–roughly half of them children–were killed.

The assault on the school in Beslan was the second attack of its kind by Chechen separatists. In October 2002, the audience in a Moscow theater was held hostage. Russian forces used a gas to disable the hostage-takers, but over 120 of the 700 or so audience members died in the rescue effort.

Mass hostage-taking by suicide bombers--we don't seem to have a word for the tactic--is the Chechen militants’ contribution to the grotesque evolution of terrorist methods. Unfortunately, successful tactics spread (for example, the car bomb, invented in Northern Ireland by Daithi O’Connell in the 1960s, has been used by terrorist organizations all over the world), and what terrorists consider "successful" has a great deal to do with spreading fear.

Vladimir Putin has been widely criticized, both from within Russia and from abroad, for his government's handling of the two hostage crises. It is worth asking how our own government would respond to mass hostage-taking by suicide bombers. Would we refuse to negotiate with terrorists, even if the lives of hundreds of children were at stake?

"None of the above" continually presents itself as the only sane answer when thinking about how we should respond to terrorist attacks such as the one in Beslan last week. This leads some to suggest tighter and tighter security. The lesson of Beslan, however, may be that, once the gloves come off and no one is excluded from potential attack, there will be always vulnerable people and places. Absolute security is impossible to achieve. Consequently, we may need to think more about the roots of our insecurity.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Torture and Responsibility

Torture was the topic during the first half of International Organizations and Law this evening. (I'm guessing there wasn't a lot said about that at the Republican National Convention tonight.) Here are links to some of the documents ("torture memos") and photographs:

The Washington Post web site has helpfully collected "Bush
Administration Documents on Interrogation" here.

A collection of photos from Abu Ghraib is available here.

This DefenseLink article reports Secretary Rumsfeld's acceptance of responsibility.

Human Rights Watch reports on the Abu Ghraib scandal here.

None of this is pleasant.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Shakespeare on War

One of the nice things about John Rourke and Mark Boyer's International Politics on the World Stage (at least for those of us who believe that a well-educated person is, among other things, someone who can integrate the insights from diverse disciplines) is that the authors spice up the text with observations from Shakespeare's plays. "The Bard of Avon," they write in the book's opening lines, "was a wise political commentator as well as a literary giant." New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof makes the same judgment of Shakespeare's value today in a piece called "Crowning Prince George."

Kristof focuses on Henry V, the play that most often attracts the attention of those looking for insights on leadership and war. Michael Walzer is among those who have examined Henry V. In Just and Unjust Wars, Walzer considers the Battle of Agincourt in the context of his opening discussion of realism. He brackets Shakespeare's account of the battle in Henry V between the one found in Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland (on which Shakespeare based his play) and the one in David Hume's The History of England. Walzer's point is that, in spite of the different judgments about Henry's character reached by the three chroniclers, there is a shared moral language available for making such judgments.

Henry V provides fodder for both enthusiasts and opponents of war. Henry's St. Crispin's Day speech in Act IV, Scene III (a response to Westmoreland's stated desire for a larger army) is one of the passages that thrills the warriors:

This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

(Surely someone has made this point before, but it is one of history's ironies that the American general who, during the Vietnam War, often expressed a desire for more troops was named Westmoreland.)

In contrast, Act IV, Scene I, in which Williams (in a conversation with a disguised Henry) states the importance of just cause, offers support for those who oppose particular wars, if not war in general:

But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath
a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and
arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join
together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at
such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a
surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind
them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their
children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die
well that die in a battle; for how can they
charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their
argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it
will be a black matter for the king that led them to
it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of

The two sides of Henry V, the glorious epic of war on the one hand and the cautionary tale of imperial hubris on the other, are quite apparent in the contrast between two widely separated film versions of the play. In 1944, with England at war against fascism, Laurence Olivier portrayed Henry in a bright and uplifting version. Kenneth Branagh's 1989 portrayal, on the other hand, is dark and brooding. It presents the play in terms consistent with those expressed by modern critics who see it, in Nicholas Kristof's words, as "an unblinking examination of the brutality and inevitable excesses of war."

Read Kristof's column and then watch one (or both) of the film versions of Shakespeare's Henry V.